Thanks to Bird on a Wire

Coffee Mug with Bird on a Wire logoMany thanks to Bird on a Wire for donating coffee for the Back to School Breakfast, which was attended by many new and returning Pathfiinder parents. Whatever each person’s frame of mind (elated, broken-hearted, worried, you get the idea) on the first day of school, that jolt of delicious java was much appreciated by all.

Let’s send some business their way – stop by Bird on a Wire, and thank them for their support. While you’re there, grab yourself a little treat! Located at 3509 SW Henderson, they’re just around the corner from Stuffed Cakes and the SW Branch of the Seattle Public Library.

Their menu includes mouthwatering goodies, such as, Bob’s Steel Cut Oats, Local Pastries, Egg Sandwiches, and House-Made Soups for the cooler weather. See more a their Thirstiest Birds Website.

Follow them on Facebook:

Let’s show them how much we appreciate their support!

Reflecting on my Daughter’s days at Pathfinder

My daughter just graduated from Pathfinder. She attended 3rd-8th grade. I am a wreck! I’m not ready for her to move on to high school, for the “beginning of the end”. I want to just stop time and stay here where they need me just enough but are indepent enough. This is the sweet spot.

I was a joyful mother when my kids started preschool and Kindergarten. Not one of those weepy moms who seemed to think that was the beginning of the end. My kids are “challenging” and school offered me a break and support. My daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers when she was 6. She attended a social skills group outside of school in addition to attending the one at school offered to kids in the “Autism Inclusion Program”. While some parents were spending thier afternoons on a muddy soccer field I sat in a coffee shop with Moms of other kids in the social skills group. There I learned things could always be more challenging with my kid. I was also surrounded by people who laughed at stories about my left of center child rather than looked at me with pity and shook their heads.

Although I was glad to have a break while my girl was in school I was also painfully aware of how hard the social aspect of school was for her. Everything caused her anxiety from walking down the hall to going to the bathroom. Those first 3 years of school were her hardest years. In third grade Pathfinder moved into the Cooper building. I was sad to see all of her classmates get moved to different schools and worried  more about my girl’s ability to make friends when I just watched her take 2 and half years to do so. But third grade proved to be her best year yet. Lisa Deburle was the very teacher she needed with clear boundaries, clear expectations and she made the kid’s social and emotional development part of the curriculum – as does every teacher at Pathfinder, I learned. Lisa encouraged other kids to reach out to mine and she made some friends! Of course, my girl’s academic skills grew in leaps and bounds as well but my biggest concern was her friendships.

My daughter continued to thrive at Pathfinder. She enjoyed 2 strong years in the Eagle Clan with Andy. Just a few weeks into her 4th grade year she announced to me that she didn’t want to do social skills group with the Autism Inclusion Program anymore because she felt there was nothing more she could learn from it. We had a conference with Andy and her inclusion teacher about it. Andy validated her comment about feeling like she wouldn’t gain anymore from the social skills class stating that for a 6 week trial period she could stay in the general ed classroom full time with the exception of her time with OT and speech. Andy said as long as her participation was appropriate we could meet again about amending her IEP. After 6 weeks she more or less “Graduated” from the inclusion program. Her IEP minutes dropped from somewhere around 800 minutes a week to the 300’s! In IEP speak that is a drastic change.

Personally, I fell in love with Andy’s teaching style. He is so direct with the kids, clear expectations and he really knows the kids on a very individual basis. He also challenges them physically, emotionally and socially. They are not always comfortable in that class. And I mean that in a good way. Andy also does something else very powerful and impactful: He cries in front of the kids. He cries when he has to say good bye at the end of the year, he cries when the kids are being especially malicious to each other and he shares personal stories to stress how short and fragile life is to drive home the point of why he insists on kindness. My daughter felt validated in this class and she thrived because of it.

Middle School. I was so thankful to be at Pathfinder. Same building, similar kids, small student body. But I didn’t know what to expect academic wise. But I knew my daughter was safe, that bullying wouldn’t be ignored. But I worried about bullying that no one saw or that my daughter didn’t share with me. She is after all, a little left of center and kids can be cruel during the middle school years pecking their way to the top.

Academically, my daughter thrived. In 6th grade she was receiving resource help with math. By 7th grade she didn’t need any help. In 8th grade she was invited to take Algebra as well as 8th grade math. She passed it all with straight A’s and can take geometry with the sophomores this coming fall. Socially, she slipped. She started to distance herself from friends saying she didn’t have anything in common with them anymore. This broke my heart. It sucks to be alone when you are in middle school and I worried about how others treated her. Despite my daughter not sharing too much with me about her experiences at school I saw glimpses of what others thought of her. They know she’s a talented artist. A couple of her classmates told me so. When she was out sick for a week I stopped by to pick up her classwork and another student left a message for her saying she was their “savior”. I’m not sure what it was about but it put a smile on my daughter’s face. Another student made a whole slideshow of my daughter during one of their field trips trying to get her to smile. But the most telling was during the heart circle on the 8th grader’s last night of camping together as a class. The kids were all given the opportunity to share or not share anything they appropriately needed to. One boy opened it up stating he wasn’t ready to leave and then promptly burst into tears. My daughter, the one that NEVER shares just because, the one who took NINE months before she joined the circle at her preschool – her teacher didn’t like to push such things – shared openly and on her own “I like Pathfinder and I will miss you all”. And then she cried along with the rest of her class. This is the kind of school my kids attend. The kind where 8th grade girls and boys feel safe to not only verbalize their feelings but to openly cry when doing so. People can criticize the academics, our test scores, the fact that kids call teachers by their first names. But this is really what it’s all about. People, relationships, stories of kindness, openness and vulnerability cause you feel safe to be vulnerable. I wouldn’t change a thing. My second child has 3 more years at Pathfinder and I’m going to cherish every second.

Molly Gras-Usry, Mother of  a Pathfinder Graduate and Pathfinder Middle Schooler

Pathfinder Garden Classroom’s summer plans

Summer’s here, but the garden keeps growing. Bring a friend and come water, harvest, and watch our beautiful space unfold! All ages welcome, and please feel free to come even if the slots have filled up.

Sign up here: . Updates and garden photos will be posted on the Pathfinder Garden Facebook page at See you there!

Autism Acceptance and So Much More!

504’s, IEP’s and IDK’s Oh my! Do any of these ring a bell for you when you think about your child? Roughly thirty percent of our student population are currently being served for special needs in the classroom through a 504 or an IEP. That’s right THIRTY percent. Another undocumented percentage of us fall, daily, into the IDK (I Don’t Know) when it comes to our kids with needs that fall out of the range of what would be called typically developing. That’s a large portion of our students and families that are effected by a wide range of challenges when it comes to raising and educating our children.

Because I am one of those parents, it was my pleasure to decorate the display case this month, highlighting Autism Acceptance Month. I had some wonderful conversations with folks as they passed by while I was decorating. My favorite moment though came when Willa, from the Eagle Clan, came by, observed me for a moment, cocked her head to the side and said “There are people who don’t accept autism? I don’t think we have a problem with that here at Pathfinder”.

Willa’s comment was right on the money. Pathfinder has a rich history of inclusivity in general and there is a legacy of inclusion with regard to the autism community. Over the years this tradition has evolved to include “quirky” children and parents of all types. In keeping with that tradition your PTSA is also evolving. We are excited to announce a new parent group the PSNAC, Pathfinder Special Needs Advocacy Community. While we are new in our evolution, our numbers are many and our plans great! Our general mission will be one of advocacy, information and support to parents and staff regarding the wide realm of special needs, including but not limited to autism.

You might be one of the many parents that we plan on serving if you relate to one or more of the following in your child: Sensory Issues, Self-regulation Issues, Executive Functioning Challenges, ADD, ADHD, Tourette’s, OCD, Anxiety, SPD, Hyperlexia, Selective Mutism, Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, Diabetes, Asthma, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, Seizure disorders, Auditory Processing, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment, Aspergers/Autism, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Delays, Allergies, and more.

In the months to come, PSNAC will be rolling out some exciting events that are designed to build connection among the parents of students of who have special needs as well as offer resources and opportunities for information to parents, staff and the wider Pathfinder community. For now, look for us at PTSA events or contact Odetta Owen, Autism Liaison to the PTSA board, at for more information. We look forward to building community with you.

The Earth Project Cookbook

The Earth Project team is seeking recipes for simple and delicious family food from our very own Pathfinder community. This is our last call-out for recipes so we can work on publishing the book in Spring!


The cookbook will include a history of our school garden and kid art in addition to 20 recipes for Fall/Winter and 20 recipes for Spring/Summer. Do you have any favorite recipes that come to mind as you read this? If there is a story or a tale to tell about your recipe, we’d love for you to share it with us.


The Cookbook Team would like recipes that highlight ingredients that come from our school garden or other Pacific Northwest grown ingredients. The more kid-friendly, the better!  If possible, include ways that your recipes can be modified for dietary restrictions. 


Please send your recipes to Karen Stone at kk.stone2(at), or there will be an envelope on the wall by the front office for you to drop off recipes, pictures, photos and any stories you want to share. The deadline is Friday, December 19th, 2014. 


Pathfinder honored for its improvements in reading and math

2014 School of DistinctionCongratulations to the Pathfinder staff and students for being named a 2014 School of Distinction! From the Center for Educational Effectiveness’ press release:

Bellevue WA – October 28, 2014 – Outstanding improvement in reading and math sustained over a five‐year period is the reason that 101 schools in Washington state received the 2014 School of Distinction (SOD) award today. The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) in partnership with the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), and Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (WSASCD) have recognized schools in the top 5% of improvement for their levels.

The 2014 School of Distinction award winners include 54 elementary schools, 22 middle / junior high schools, 17 high schools, and 8 alternative schools. This award is the eighth annual School of Distinction award in Washington State and includes nine schools who are first‐time winners and multiple‐year winners including Mercer International Middle School (Seattle Public Schools) which is a six time winner of the SOD award. Describing the schools that are designated as School of Distinction award winners, Greg Lobdell, President of CEE noted, “These schools are from all regions of the state, all sizes of towns, with a range from 2.7% to 100% poverty and enrollment of English Language Learners as high as 40%. These schools demonstrate that significant improvement is occurring all across our diverse public schools.”

Meet Elk Clan (4/5) teacher, Talia!


Talia as a 4th grader.

Hello! My name is Talia Maas-Howard, and I’m thrilled to be joining the
Pathfinder team this year as the 4th/5th grade Elk Clan teacher. I was
born and raised in Northern California where I completed my BA in
Development Studies at UC Berkeley. I worked in various capacities in the Oakland Unified School District before moving to Seattle to pursue an
Elementary Credential and a Masters in Teaching from the University of

In my free time I enjoy gardening, playing soccer, hiking,
reading, and listening to live music. I greatly look forward to
strengthening relationships with the students, families, and staff that
make up the Pathfinder community.


Elk Clan (4/5) teacher, Talia.